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  • Aryaan Duggal

From Genes to Society: Molecular Mechanisms of Human Aging and its Societal Implications

Human beings experience a natural progression of physical and mental changes as we age. Some of these changes can be positive, such as increased wisdom and experience, but others can be negative, such as declining physical abilities and increased risk of disease. It's no wonder, then, that many people fear aging and all the potential negative consequences that come with it. According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, about 60% of adults in the United States say they feel at least somewhat concerned about aging. Additionally, the global anti-aging market is expected to reach $83.2 billion by 2027, indicating a high demand for products and services that aim to combat the effects of aging. This article will examine the scientific and societal reasoning behind why this phenomenon is present and how this issue can be directly related to our current day politics. Most prominently, humans fear aging due to the fact that biologically and psychologically, death is inconceivable. The very nature of humanity both defines and limits our species within a constrained “time bubble” that cannot be outran, explaining why “death” as a concept has been shunned from discussion in society.

One of the primary reasons why humans fear aging is the negative physical changes that occur as a person ages. As humans age, our bodies begin to deteriorate, leading to a decline in physical abilities and an increased risk of chronic diseases. Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, account for 71% of all deaths worldwide, and the risk of developing these diseases increases as a person ages. The fear of losing one's physical abilities and independence is a significant concern for many older adults. Another factor that contributes to the fear of aging is the perception that aging is associated with a decline in cognitive abilities. According to a study published in the Journal of Aging and Health, the fear of cognitive decline is a significant concern for many older adults, even those who have no cognitive impairment at their current age. Clearly, the fear of losing one's memory or ability to think can be a significant source of anxiety and stress for many people as they age.

As humans age, they tend to have common psychological responses to aging, which produce fear reactions in their bodies. Aging causes humans to become more aware of their mortality, and this can be a significant source of anxiety and stress for some people. According to a study published in the Journal of Aging and Health, fear of death was the most commonly reported fear among older adults, with over 70% of participants reporting some level of fear, compared to 12% for children. The fear of death can be intensified by the physical and cognitive changes that occur with aging, as these changes can be seen as a reminder of a person’s mortality.

Another psychological factor that can contribute to the fear of aging is the fear of losing one's sense of identity and purpose. Many people derive a sense of self-worth and meaning from their work or other activities, and the prospect of losing these roles and identities can be daunting. According to a study published in the Journal of Gerontology, older adults who had a strong sense of purpose in life had a better cognitive function and a lower risk of mortality. Finding new roles and sources of meaning can be challenging as we age, but it is an essential part of healthy aging and can help reduce the fear of losing one's sense of identity and purpose. In addition to physical and cognitive changes, the fear of aging can also be influenced by societal attitudes and expectations. Ageism, or discrimination based on age, is a significant issue that affects many older adults. Ageism can take many forms, including stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination, and it often leads to negative outcomes such as reduced access to job opportunities, healthcare, and social inclusion. According to the United Nations, ageism is one of the most normalized and tolerated forms of prejudice worldwide, and it can lead to social isolation, poor mental health, and decreased quality of life. Over 90% of the elderly feel as though they are being overlooked due to their age; therefore, older adults are frequently seen as less competent, less productive, or less valuable than younger people, which can lead to unequal treatment. The fear of being marginalized or dismissed due to one's age is a significant concern for many older adults.

Lastly, societal attitudes play a significant role in why humans fear aging and death. Aging is viewed as a decline from youth, and older adults are often stereotyped as frail, forgetful, and unproductive. These attitudes can lead to negative self-perceptions among older adults, who may begin to internalize these stereotypes and feel that they are no longer valued members of society. Additionally, societal expectations expect humans to remain physically and mentally sharp as one ages in order to be seen as valuable, which can lead to anxiety and stress for many people who experience the natural and normal processes of physical and cognitive decline. Fear of aging may also stem from concerns about losing independence and facing an increased risk of chronic health conditions. Overall, societal attitudes and expectations of aging can contribute to negative perceptions of aging, which may lead to fear and anxiety about growing older.

Politics has played a significant role in shaping societal attitudes towards aging and influencing the fear of aging in society. Government policies and political discourse can contribute to the stigmatization of aging, which can perpetuate negative stereotypes and fuel fear and anxiety. For example, politicians who promote ageist attitudes and discriminatory policies can create a climate of fear and marginalization for older adults, which feeds into the mainstream narrative against aging. For example, politicians, such as Mitch McConnell, have openly and actively campaigned for the end of Medicare, a policy that provides cheap and affordable healthcare to anyone over the age of 65. Opposing this policy is openly opposing the health, safety, and wellbeing of the elderly. Conversely, political leaders who prioritize the needs and concerns of older adults can help promote a more positive and inclusive view of aging. By promoting policies that support healthy aging and combat ageism, political leaders can help address the root causes of the fear of aging and promote a more positive view of growing older. Ultimately, political action and leadership can play a critical role in shaping the way society views aging and how individuals experience the aging process.

In conclusion, the fear of aging is a complex issue that is influenced by a variety of factors, including physical and cognitive changes, societal attitudes and expectations, and individual perceptions and experiences. Aging is a natural and inevitable part of humanity; it is what makes us human. By promoting healthy lifestyles, reanalyzing our political situations and changing the way humans think about aging, we can help reduce this fear and promote healthy and fulfilling lives.


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